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Name: Les
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I am trying to identify a snake It is about 12 inches long, oval head, mottled colorings with a gray body reddish brown bloches outlined in black on its back with a different pattern on its belly It was found swimming in the Mississippi on the surface of the water. It tried to strike when handled. Is this a water snake?

Well, there are several kinds of snakes that swim. Most of them aren't venomous. You can find pictures of some of them at the web site HOwever, none of those really match the description you gave, "reddish brown bloches outlined in black." The closest picture of a water snake I could find with such features is the venomous cottonmouth, or water moccasin. These snakes are fairly aggressive and fearless, so they say. (I've never encountered one in the wild; I have encountered rattlesnakes, which are quite timid.) There are many pictures of cottonmouths at What you described sounds a little like the pictures of the juvenile, such as the one at

Don't pester a cottonmouth!

Richard Barrans Jr., Ph.D.

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